Pin It
Favorite

Oh, And By the Way... 

by Joel Smith & r & We like Andrew Bird so much that we figured he deserved a little extra attention from discerning Spokane music fans this week. But did we mention that he's only the opening act for Saturday's show at the Big Easy? Verily. The headliners are newgrass wunderkinds Nickel Creek.


The trio of Sean and Sara Watkins (siblings, on guitar and fiddle, respectively) and mandolin/banjo player Chris Thile got its start playing pizza parlors in San Diego and thereafter became a festival circuit favorite. But they really started turning heads in 2000, with the release of their first (eponymous) major record -- partly because they were young (Thile and Sara Watkins were 19 at the time; Sean Watkins, just 23), and partly because Thile's cute, coy looks were tailor-made for the WB crowd. But just as much because they were damn good.


The album's opening track, the instrumental "Ode to a Butterfly," sounded like the result of a wild night driving through the Tennessee countryside on uppers, with each member taking turns on lightning-fast flights over and across and up and down the scales. Somehow they topped that track again and again throughout the course of the album. "The House of Tom Bombadil" picks up where "Butterfly" left off, transporting the party to Ireland and knocking the whole thing into an unidentifiable time sequence. Alternating between manic instrumentals and earnest (if a little sappy) ballads, the band recalled Bela Fleck more than Bill Monroe -- kind of like bluegrass, but really like nothing you'd ever heard before.


They followed it in 2002 with This Side, a classic up-yours-for-thinking-you-know-what-we're-about sophomore release that bent and blurred the genres even further. Considerably poppier, and not a little jazz-inflected, it was a risky choice. They garnered a degree of indie street cred for a cover of Pavement's "Spit on a Stranger" that might actually beat the original (Thile cites Wilco, Calexico and Radiohead as influences, among others), but the rest of the album is an uneven experiment in style. The record likely lost the bluegrass purists, even as it gained the band more pop fans.


Whatever the case, though, it seems they're not done learning. Why Should the Fire Die?, released in August, continues the group's journey into unexplored territory. The difference: This one's solid. It's darker, more contemplative, and what music critics like to call "gorgeous." Hammering you over with a rock groove one minute, a techno-ish beat the next, it then returns to a straight-up mountain ramble before swinging into something sounding like The Triplets of Belleville soundtrack.


The highlight of the disc is the dark, riotous, screaming "Can't Complain." Exceptional in the recording, it could be positively electrifying in concert, as it builds and builds and builds, then blows the top off. If you're gonna call out a request Saturday night, try that one. Or get real drunk, request "Tom Bombadil" and just try to dance along to it.
  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • Hiring Among Friends
  • Hiring Among Friends

    What's wrong with this picture? Todd Mielke wants the top job in Spokane County and his colleagues get to decide
    • May 20, 2015
  • Walking to Where, Exactly?
  • Walking to Where, Exactly?

    Publisher's Note
    • May 20, 2015
  • Too Early to Tell
  • Too Early to Tell

    What's your opinion of Emily Farris? Hint: You probably shouldn't have one yet
    • May 20, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Never Forget 343 Stairclimb Memoriam Reception

Never Forget 343 Stairclimb Memoriam Reception @ Mukogawa Institute

Sun., May 24, 2-5 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • This Old House

    If it could talk, it could tell stories of three generations, along with a lot of griping from neighbors
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • On a Roll

    Just-announced reforms do little to safeguard Spokane against the danger of oil trains
    • May 6, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


Publisher's Note


marijuana


education


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation